Blue/Orange examination – smarm, attract and tender tension in gladiatorial mental health drama


When Blue/Orange was initial staged roughly dual decades ago, a critique of a self-indulgent psychiatric complement felt shockingly timely. Joe Penhall’s gladiatorial play of a immature black studious held between a contrary ideologies and egos of dual white doctors showed them to be led by careerism, convictions and unexamined prejudice.

That this reconstruction feels only as topical, yet for opposite reasons, is a melodramatic feat yet also a thoughtfulness on a failings of a mental health system, generally when set opposite new discussions about a jagged series of black people incarcerated as inpatients.

Its director, Daniel Bailey, motionless to entertainment it in a strange form rather than updating to a present-day to uncover “not most has been finished since”. Christopher (Ivan Oyik) is a immature black male with a equivocal celebrity commotion who believes himself to be a son of a former Ugandan tyrant Idi Amin. He is in high spirits on his final day of a 28-day apprehension in a secure ward, nonetheless Bruce (Thomas Coombes), a trainee doctor, thinks him a risk and hopes to keep him in hospital.

Watch a video about a Rep’s Blue/Orange

The play’s executive dispute is set when clinical consultant, Robert (Richard Lintern) stairs in to manage a box and Christopher becomes a guaranty in their conflict to establish where he belongs: in a long-term sentinel or behind in his aged life operative a fruit case as a free, if fragile, man.

The whole play takes place in a assembly room and Amelia Jane Hankin’s set is not a fighting ring of a original, giving small divided with a prosy design – chairs, frame lights, a water-cooler and pot plant.

Penhall’s book breathes tragedy into this immobile space by a men’s energy play and a constantly changeable dignified belligerent on that they stand. Bruce is a Chino-wearing romantic who feels a avocation not to desert Christopher. Yet he is reluctant to survey his assumptions and is sealed zealously into a faith that his diagnosis is right. Robert, satirised for his arrogant opinion and top middle-class vanities, is during once conservative and some-more wakeful than Bruce of a secular disposition in white western psychoanalysis (“the complement is flawed”). The play’s refusal to palm over a required knave who embodies a “wrong” side of a discuss gives it both a egghead brilliance and psychological complexity.

Ivan Oyik as Christopher.

‘Seemingly unknowingly of a energy he gains over a doctors’ … Ivan Oyik as Christopher. Photograph: Myah Jeffers

Coombes is primarily wavering as Bruce, yet distant steadier in his face-offs with Robert and Christopher in a second act. Oyik’s Christopher is clearly unknowingly of a energy he gains over a doctors. If this seems naive, there is a tender corner to his opening in his best moments. Lintern is convincingly smarmy as Robert, his switch from attract to bullying fury gradual; he afterwards manipulates his studious to indicate measure rather than heal. The chemistry between a 3 group is not evident yet builds over time. By a second act, a stakes have been lifted and a humour is transposed by chicanery, threat and manipulation.

This play is staged as partial of a theatre’s broader plan to foster certain mental health among immature African-Caribbean people: it becomes an obligatory partial of a genuine universe as good as an agitator square of theatre.

At Birmingham Repertory entertainment until 16 February.


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